3.2 Presenters

The simplest and most secure way to get your work seen by the public is to have it presented by an established institution such as a festival or a presenter. Before approaching potential presenters, however, it is essential that you think about your ultimate goal as a choreographer and develop a critical path to help manage long-term conceptual planning. Your critical path helps you target appropriate presenters.

Different presenters offer varying levels of support, but in general, they take care of the venue, technical direction and a certain amount of the promotion, leaving you free to concentrate on the creation itself. With a presenter, you can also rely on the venue’s regular audience to help fill seats at your show and supplement box office sales. Depending on the venue, you may or may not get paid. Regardless, presentation fees never cover the full production costs of putting together a piece. A presenting fee is for the final product, not the work that went into creating it.

The Application Process
Getting a gig requires research, work and planning. Some festivals request an application form, a video or an audition, while others charge an application fee as well. Most presenters require that you demonstrate your choreographic experience and the quality of your work with a detailed proposal. They need to see your work. A video might trigger their interest, but generally they want to see the work live before programming it.

Keep all clippings, flyers, posters and programs relating to your past work and maintain an up-to-date CV. Keep your portfolio clear and concise, and never underestimate the value of good video documentation. Some artists over-use editing and effects in their videos; most presenters want to see a straight-up recording of a piece.

In order to write a successful proposal, develop a vocabulary with which to describe yourself, your artistic path, your choreographic aesthetic and the issues you like to address in your work. Though this can be painful at first, it becomes easier over time. Proofread all documents carefully before you send them out. Remember, presenters look over hundreds of proposals, so be concise and get straight to the point. Tailor each submission for the presenter at hand.

Your proposal should include:
• an artistic mandate or text describing your background and experience as a choreographer (1/2 page);
• a description of the piece you are proposing, including the number of performers and the length
of the piece (1/2 page);
• clear technical requirements of the piece;
• some selective support material such as photos of your work in progress, flyers and newspaper clippings
from past pieces;
• a clearly labeled video (DVD) or weblink, if not of the piece you are proposing, then a selection of your most recent work (include a self addressed and stamped envelope if you want it back);
• a dated cover letter with all of your contact information.

Although Tangente and Studio 303 present more artists per year than do the larger venues, they and the yearly festivals cannot alone support all the demands of our ever-growing emerging dance scene. Don’t be too discouraged by a negative response to your proposal, there will always be other opportunities if you persevere.

Negotiating Contracts
Once you have been invited to present work, you should expect to sign a contract which outlines both the presenter’s and the artist’s (your) responsibilities. A contract should include, among other things, how much and when you will be paid, a schedule of your time in the theatre as well as the presenter’s needs and deadlines in terms of promotional material and technical information. Develop a good rapport with your presenter, consider their representatives as collaborators and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

For resources for negotiating contract, consult the CanDance Network’s Artist Negotiation Tools.

For more information about presenting, download the transcript of the panel Touring & Presenting for Dance and Interdisciplinary Artists presented by ELAN & Studio 303 on May 8th 2010 or listen to the audio file.

… next chapter: 3.3 Self-Presenting

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